Legal Press & Updates
“I was … alarmed to learn that, in some recent cases, presiding judges have forbidden environmental defenders from explaining to the jury their motivation for participating in a given protest or from mentioning climate change at all.
It is very difficult to understand what could justify denying the jury the opportunity to hear the reason for the defendant’s action, and how a jury could reach a properly informed decision without hearing it, in particular at the time of environmental defenders’ peaceful but ever more urgent calls for the government to take pressing action for the climate.”
On Thursday 9 November, the eminent legal scholar, Professor John Spencer CBE, wrote an opinion piece for the Times, offering more invaluable support for the Defend Our Juries campaign: “Defying a judge is not always contempt of court – Jury equity could be seen as an important constitutional safeguard”
He argues that on a proper interpretation of the law, courts should giv[e] protesters some chance to explain the reasons for their actions” and not punish “those who try to make the jury aware of [the principle of jury equity]”.
He concludes by quoting E.P. Thompson in a stinging rebuke to those undermining trial by jury: “There are worse offences to the body politic than contempt of court; and these are contempt for our constitutional history and contempt for the people of this country.”